Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna writes at Politico that before Stephen K. Bannon “embraced the mogul from Manhattan,” the former Breitbart Executive Chairman and current chief strategist to Donald Trump had his eye “on another gifted populist” outsider — former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Both Bannon and Palin realized that the Republican Party needed to “drain the swamp” in DC and champion the forgotten American working class if it ever wanted to regain the White House again.
Steve Bannon thought he had found his perfect presidential candidate. This person was “an outsider,” someone who was “not part of the political establishment,” “not for sale,” with “an ‘America First’ foreign policy approach” and “a ‘Drain the Swamp’ mentality about Washington, DC.” What Bannon loved most was how this person seemed to “put the American worker—the little guy—first.”
Except Bannon wasn’t thinking about Donald Trump. The dream candidate he had in mind? Sarah Palin.
Years before the partisan provocateur of the 2016 cycle hitched himself to the upstart populist billionaire from New York, Bannon openly fantasized about transforming the former governor of Alaska into the very kind of anti-politician who could humiliate the elites of both parties, the very kind of norm-defying outsider that Trump, with Bannon’s help, would ultimately prove to be. So he put all his energy into helping the self-described Mama Grizzly eat Washington’s lunch.
This was back in 2011 and Bannon, a filmmaker whose credits at the time included an homage to Ronald Reagan and two films on the Tea Party movement, told the National Review that he saw “a direct lineage” between the Tea Party movement and the Reagan Revolution, and he was desperate to find a contemporary Reagan. For Bannon, the upcoming 2012 election was an opportunity to “fight for the soul of the Republican Party.” He told an audience in Chicago in July of that year, “If we want to get eviscerated and have another 2008, all we have to do is run an establishment Republican.”
It was just a few months earlier that Rebecca Mansour, currently the Senior West Coast Editor at Breitbart News and previously an aide and speechwriter to Sarah Palin, reached out to Bannon to ask if he would make some short videos for a potential Palin presidential campaign. Mansour told Politico recently that Bannon was enthusiastic about her boss’s potential candidacy; it was Bannon, she said, who identified Palin as an “outsider” with a “drain the swamp” mentality. Bannon saw in Palin someone who, in his own words, presented “an existential threat to not just the progressive left, but also to the entrenched country club Republican Party.”
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